Donald Trump warned on Thursday that a cloud of investigation would follow Hillary Clinton into the White House, evoking the bitter impeachment battle of the 1990s in a closing campaign argument meant to bring wayward Republicans home. Clinton and her allies, led by President Barack Obama, told voters to get serious about the dangers of Trump.
As polls show Trump closing in on Clinton in key battleground states, her campaign is rushing to shore up support in some long-standing Democratic strongholds. That includes the campaign’s Michigan firewall, a remarkable situation for a candidate who looked to be cruising to an easy win just a week ago.
Clinton’s shrinking lead has given Trump’s campaign a glimmer of hope, one he’s trying to broaden into breakthrough before time runs out. That means courting the moderate Republicans and independents who have been the holdouts of his campaign, voters turned off by his controversies but equally repelled by the possible return of the Clintons.
Trump directed his message at those voters at a rally in Jacksonville, where he zeroed in on questions of Clinton’s trustworthiness and a new FBI review of an aide’s emails.
“Here we go again with the Clintons — you remember the impeachment and the problems.” Trump said. “That’s not what we need in our country, folks. We need someone who is ready to go to work.”
Obama and allies, meanwhile, are seeking to keep the spotlight on Trump, charging that his disparaging comments about women and minorities, and his temperament make him unfit for office. The stakes are higher than a typical election and Americans need to get serious about the choice, Obama told students at Florida International University in Miami.
“This isn’t a joke. This isn’t ‘Survivor.’ This isn’t ‘The Bachelorette.'” Obama said. “This counts.
Obama openly taunted the former reality-TV star, zig-zagging from mockery to dire warnings to boasting about his own record in office. And he repeatedly returned to his new campaign catchphrase capturing his disbelief in the unpredictable race to replace him.
“C’mon, man,” he said, to cheers.
The president’s mission in the final push before Tuesday is to fire up the Democratic base — and bait the Republican into veering off message. Democrats are counting on Trump not to have the discipline or the ground game to capitalize on a late surge.
But the famously unconventional Trump has so far hewed closer to convention, running some upbeat ads, bringing out his wife for a rare campaign appearance and even talking publicly about trying not to get distracted.
“We don’t want to blow it on Nov. 8,” Trump said Thursday at the rally in Jacksonville, his fourth in Florida in two days.
Trump’s path to victory remains narrow. He must win Florida to win the White House, no easy feat. Still, his campaign has been buoyed by tightening polls there and in other key battlegrounds, as well as by signs that African-American turnout for Clinton may be lagging.
Clinton’s weekend schedule underscored the Democrats’ fresh anxiety. She is due to campaign Friday in Detroit, where a large turnout of black voters has long been crucial to success, following up on a last-minute meeting by former President Bill Clinton with black ministers on Wednesday night.
Clinton and Obama, along with their spouses, will campaign together for a final pre-election rally in Philadelphia next Monday evening.
Trump has had far fewer allies carrying his message. But previously reluctant surrogates were out on the trail Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz, his GOP primary foe, campaigned with vice presidential candidate Mike Pence outside Des Moines, Iowa.
Still, Trump’s onetime bitter rival never mentioned the Republican nominee by name in a 14-minute speech, while lauding Pence and pushing for the re-election of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, made her first appearance on the trail since the Republican convention in July. At a get-out-the-vote rally in the Philadelphia suburbs, the former model tried to counter the Clinton campaign’s pounding attacks on her husband as setting a poor example for children.
She told the group that if she becomes first lady she will focus on combatting online bullying as part of her work.
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” she said.
Melania made no reference to her husband’s regular name-calling on social media. On Twitter, Donald Trump has called Clinton “crooked,” ”pathetic,” ”liar,” ”a fraud” and “very dumb.” He’s called Cruz a “true lowlife pol!” and a “complete and total liar.”
Trump’s daughter Ivanka was campaigning in New Hampshire.
Trump isn’t the first Republican to raise warnings of a new cycle of scandal and investigation. Republicans lawmakers have recently threatened to block Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, investigate her endlessly or even impeach her over her use of private emails as secretary of state.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday hit back, saying any effort to impeach Clinton “would be a brazen attempt to nullify the vote of the American people” and would be a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said he was “really despaired” by the talk.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.